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(hed)p.e. Back To Base
Suburban Noize Records (2006)

I haven't seen (hed)p.e. play live since back in '98, the first ever British Ozzfest. I don't remember much about that day, but I do recall being impressed by this band. It's not like they were the first band to fuse gangsta rap & punk/metal, but they sure as shit were doing it right back when Limp Bizkit were best known for covering George Michael's 'Faith'.

I must admit, though, that in the last few years I've pretty well lost touch with their output, so it was almost like starting over with this album,

It begins calmly enough, 'Listen' being much more towards the hip-hop end of (hed)p.e.'s output. It's a declamatory call-to-arms, and a solidly vitriolic base to start from. And having laid out one half of their stall, the blur of guitars and drums that begin the oddly-named 'Novus Ordos Clitorus' stake their claim as a metal band.

The socio-political commentary in that song, and throughout, could've got a bit wearing. But the standard 9/11, New World Order, anti-authoritarian shtick is actually tempered and lightened with references to Middle Earth, the Templars, and even the English throne. Plus, it does seem like vocalist M.C.U.D. (the daft hip-hop name thing continues throughout the band) is genuinely invested in the lyrics. And he can genuinely rap, at least to the standards of a middle-class white boy Englishman, notably in the standard gangsta stuff on 'Daze or War'.

Crossover music like this has always relied on the differences in the music to make it; the savagery of metal vs. the smoothness of hip-hop, punk speed with rap vocals. And (hed)p.e. do it better than most, moving from soul to hardcore in a heartbeat, even touching on reggae briefly in 'Sophia', but making every genre believable and part of some larger game-plan.

In recent years, (hed)p.e. have been given mixed reviews. They are often lumped in with nu-metal, but they generally avoid the worst excesses of that genre. They were ploughing this furrow a long time before it was fashionable, and they can actually function as a band, drummer BC in particular proving tight, versatile, and fast as hell when he needs to be.

Bottom line, they are what they are; if you like punky metal with hip-hop vocals and sensibility, and sonic diversity, you could do a lot worse than this album. If you don't, you probably only read this far to try and work out what their name stands for.


Review by Phil Rennard

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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